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How To Plant Tulip Bulbs In Pots

How to plant tulip bulbs in pots

Success in planting tulip bulbs in pots depends on choosing an appropriate planter, high-quality potting mix, and tulip variety. You’ll also have to pay attention to the timing of planting and chilling.

Use a wide planter with a drainage hole. The bulbs can be quite close together and should be just below the soil surface. Water after planting and place the pot in a chilled spot (either outdoors or in a fridge) for 8-13 weeks. Properly planted and chilled bulbs will start to sprout when temperatures warm up.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs In Pots

Container gardening with tulips

Growing tulips in a planter pot isn’t much more complex than growing tulips outdoors in the ground. And if you don’t have a yard or live in a climate with warm winters, potted tulips are a great solution. Even those with large outdoor gardens love to pot up some tulips in the fall to enjoy some late winter blooms indoors.

Here are the basic steps for growing tulips in a pot:

  1. Choose a wide pot with drainage holes. Terra cotta is a nice choice for the material, and it should be big enough to accommodate the bulbs without them touching.
  2. Choose healthy, firm bulbs. Shorter varieties tend to do better in pots than taller varieties. This includes many of the lovely double and parrot cultivars.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 full with moist potting soil, leaving space for the bulbs and about an inch at the top.
  4. Place the bulbs on the soil surface with the pointed end up. The bulbs can be quite close in the pot, but avoid pressing them right up against each other. They shouldn’t be touching if possible.
  5. Cover the bulbs with more potting mix so the tops of the bulbs are just at the soil surface.
  6. After planting, water the whole pot well so the soil is moist.
  7. Place the planted pot in a dark, cool place for its dormant chilling period. It will need about 8-13 weeks at near-freezing temperatures (either in the fridge or outdoors).
  8. After the chilling period, place the pot in a warm, sunny spot. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Once the tulips have bloomed and the flowers have faded, allow the foliage to die back naturally.

Tulips in Pots

Choosing tulip varieties for planting

If you’re a first-time tulip planter or this is your first time planting tulips in a pot, you may want to stick to one variety. It will give you a more uniform look, and you can always experiment as you gain more experience.

Some short tulip varieties that grow well in planters include Monte Carlo, Secret Perfume, Brisbane, Sweet Sixteen, Red Riding Hood, and Peppermint Stick, just to name a few! All of these tulips are between 10 and 12 inches tall, which look lovely when planted in large pots! 

Planting tulip bulbs in a large outdoor planter pot
Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots outdoors in zones 3-7 as long as the pots are at least about a foot wide.

Planting tulip bulbs in outdoor pots

Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots outside in climates with cool-to-cold winters. This includes Zones 3-7 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Tulip bulbs need to spend weeks at near-freezing temperatures to properly prepare for spring blooming.

Planting the pots up in the fall is the easiest way to do this. Then either set them into the ground or place them in a somewhat-protected area for the winter. Let the snow pile up on them and then melt, keeping the pots from drying out. Simulate the natural environment of in-ground bulbs as best as you can with what’s available.

Pot of tulips starting to sprout in spring

Those in warmer zones will have to chill tulip bulbs in the fridge for 8-13 weeks. Some gardeners just chill the bulbs in a paper bag, while others plant them and then chill the entire planted pot. Once the bulbs have been properly chilled, the whole planter can go out on the porch for display as it blooms.

How to plant tulip bulbs indoors

Planting tulip bulbs indoors is a great way to brighten up your home. Plant the bulbs in a wide pot in the fall. Water well after planting, and don’t forget to label the pot with the tulip variety.

Chilling Potted Tulip Bulbs
Forcing tulips is done by potting bulbs in the fall, chilling them for 8-13 weeks, and then bringing them to room temperature to “force” them to sprout early.

The planter now must be chilled for several months. Place the planter in a cool garage, buried in the ground (can use chicken wire to cover pots from animals), or in a spare refrigerator (with no fruit in it). Whether chilled outdoors or in the fridge, tulip bulbs need 8-13 weeks in a temperature range of 40°-50°F (4°-10°C) to root and develop properly.

After 8-13 weeks, the potted bulbs can be removed from chilling. Bringing them to a warmer indoor temperature will encourage them to sprout. Make sure the space has plenty of bright, indirect sunlight for your flowering bulbs.


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